Family and business are inseparably linked for Choy Wai Hin, Group Managing Director of Malaysian company Federal Furniture Holdings. Wai Hin has spent the past three decades at the company that his parents founded, having been recruited straight into the furniture specialist upon obtaining a civil engineering degree and “promptly pushed into the deep end of the family business”.
Wai Hin explains that, coming from a traditional Chinese family business background, his parents, who had established Federal in 1962, had placed a strong but pragmatic emphasis on education, which was viewed as being a “basic grounding for a career in business.” As such, the skills and knowledge gained throughout the course of his degree were to be put to use in his ensuing career with Federal.
Choy Wai Hin has in-depth knowledge of the furniture industry
Starting out with the company in 1987, Wai Hin had begun by developing an understanding of its technical operations, taking on various junior factory positions, and after a few years was posted to the project-management side of the business.
“After a couple of years as a project manager, I moved on to the sales and marketing function of our furniture export division,” he recalls.
Our focus in our factories now is how to get a handle on the Industry 4.0 revolution that is beginning to take shape.
“The first decade of my career allowed me to gain insight and experience across the various aspects of the furniture industry. The stints in different divisions of the business enabled me to gain a wide-ranging perspective of the furniture industry in general.”
Wai Hin was appointed Group Managing Director in 1992, and during the mid 90s had become increasingly involved in developing the company’s export market. He recalls that the Malaysian furniture industry had gained a reputation as an exporter of high-quality products, with Federal having positioned itself at the forefront of the export boom.
Federal Furniture Holdings grows into a modern corporation
On the back of its growing export trade, Federal listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (now Bursa Malaysia) in 1990. Wai Hin notes that throughout his time with the company it has progressed from being “a traditional, family-run business, headed by its founders, into a modern corporation.”
Federal now operates across three core businesses, comprising its manufacturing and export, interior fit-out and retail divisions.
“The manufacturing division has continually evolved its business, from being a producer of mass-market rubberwood furniture to today being a specialised producer of high-quality commercial shop fixtures, with international brands such as Starbucks, Coach, and Krispy Kreme as our customers,” Wai Hin states.
“Our interior fit-out division has continued to enhance our reputation as high-quality builders of custom woodwork and furniture for the hospitality industry, delivering beautiful interiors for hotels including the St Regis, JW Marriott and Westin, both here in Malaysia and abroad, while our retail division operates Malaysia’s largest kitchen cabinet and appliance superstore.”
But maintains its family-business ethos
Wai Hin notes that one of the strengths of the company is a strong work ethic typically found in family-run, founder-led businesses, which he says is based on a strong sense of shared belonging and a shared future.
“I have always tried to inculcate this into our corporate culture as we have progressed over the years, and as the business has evolved,” he states, pointing to the importance of “leadership at all levels leading by example.”
As Federal continues to grow, Wai Hin additionally stresses the importance of employing new technologies and implementing best practices across the company’s operations.
“Our focus in our factories now is how to get a handle on the Industry 4.0 revolution that is beginning to take shape,” he states. “It’s also determining how we can adopt the various ideas and concepts surrounding Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, and making it work for us in the furniture and fixtures manufacturing environment.”
Wai Hin is focused on Federal’s next evolution
Wai Hin states that Federal’s recent acquisition of fellow Malaysian company Pembinaan Masteron has enabled it to further diversify, expanding its reach in the building construction industry.
“There are definite synergies between the building construction company and our furniture divisions,” he states. “For example, Pembinaan Masteron is building a few four-star hotels, and the interior fit-out division will execute the construction of the interior spaces and furniture.
“For the next three to five years, I will focus on growing the entire business by offering property developers a one-stop solution, not only for constructing their buildings but also undertaking interior fit-out and furniture requirements – we will evolve into an integrated builder.”